More Heads Roll in Wake of Rikers Jail Murder

rikerssign.jpgRemember in Goodfellas when Robert De Niro's character, Jimmy Conway, whacks everyone who can tie him to the Lufthansa heist?

Correction Commissioner Martin Horn seems to be doing something similar — if only on a bureaucratic level — in the wake of the recent murder of a teenager in a Rikers Island jail.

After inmates fatally beat Christopher Robinson on October 17 at the Robert N. Davoren Center, where adolescents are housed, Horn transferred several correction officers and placed at least two on modified assignment, amid an investigation into whether the guards either screwed up or condoned the assault.

It's unclear whether RNDC will receive any additional staff or training. Reform advocates argue that the inmate-staff ratio should be reduced, and more guards should be specially trained in dealing with teenagers.

Horn didn't face much of a grilling at a City Council session last week, but Bronx prosecutors have said they'll take the case to a grand jury.

Whether for reform or merely to keep his own job, or both, at least Horn's whacking some subordinates. After his first round of transfers and shuffling, he ordered the transfer of RNDC Warden Gregory McLaughlin, and two deputy wardens, Mark Scott and Artemio Colon.

Scott and Colon, ironically, had helped start investigations into guard misbehavior in previous incidents that led to at least one indictment and several firings. The indictment alleged that guards were using a group of inmates to beat other inmates who broke the rules ("Rikers Island Fight Club," April 8, and "What the Jail Guard Saw," July 3, 2007).

Horn didn't stop with the RNDC officials. Moving up the chain of command, Horn ordered the retirement of Assistant Chief Lionel Lorquet, as the Voice reported late last week. Lorquet had denied the request of a subordinate to move Robinson into more secure housing following an earlier altercation.

Now, Horn has shuffled the jobs of three of his most senior chiefs, including transferring the No. 3 official in the entire department to a lower profile office, the Voice has learned.

Chief of Facility Operations Patrick Walsh, who reported to Chief of Department Jacqueline Thomas, was moved last week to run the office of Custody Management and Environmental Health. The administrative chief Peter Curcio will take Walsh's spot, while Valerie Oliver will move from the environmental office to administration.

Correction Department spokesman Stephen Morello denied that the Walsh transfer was related to the Robinson murder. And Morello said it was incorrect to describe the shift in duties as a demotion. "All three maintain their same salaries," he said. "They were rotated in a way that will deepen their skills and broaden all their experience."

But the move represents a step down for Walsh, who goes from overseeing every building in the sprawling jail system to running a smaller office with narrower responsibilities. He was originally appointed by Horn to the post in November 2006.

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